The Alabaster Jar

Palm-Passion – The Alabaster Jar

March 30, 2012

Mark 14: 1-9


According to the gospel of Mark, this meal happens on a Wednesday.

It is two days before the Passover feast.

Two days before the crucifixion.


The crowds which had been shouting “Hosanna to the king!”  have put aside their palm branches.

They’ve  taken their cloaks up from the road where Jesus passed by

and put them back on again.

They’ve gone back to business.

Things are back to normal – or so they think.


Meanwhile ,however,

in another part of the city, a group of chief priests and experts in the law are plotting.

Having witnessed the enthusiasm of the crowds as Jesus entered the city,

they know that the people cannot be trusted to do what is best.


After all, the people were hailing Jesus as if he were a king!

Obviously they are misguided.

The group of priests and scribes are convinced that Jesus must be stopped.

But due to his popularity, timing is everything.


So Mark writes, they plot secretly – in stealth –

about how to arrest and kill him.


Jesus goes to the home of Simon the leper for a meal that Wednesday.

Two days before the crucifixion.


We don’t know much about Simon the leper.

but  he was one of “those people”  –

“those people” so despised and feared by the chief priests and scribes.

“Those people” who  praised Jesus with palms

because they knew he was a healer.


Simon the leper – had been healed.

He was at home – no longer cut off from his family.

Simon’s life had been given back to him.


Around the table are many others.

Disciples who have been listening to Jesus teach.


As they eat and talk;

laugh and share;

an unnamed woman approaches the table.


She is not laughing and talking as the men are.

Rather she is weeping.

She knows…


The woman carries a jar made of rich alabaster stone.

It has a long neck which has been sealed tightly closed,

so that not a drop of the costly perfume it contains will spill.


Silently, the woman breaks the seal,

and the aroma of nard – that precious costly perfume– fills the room.

Without saying a word, she takes the container

and pours the entire contents of it over Jesus’ head.


The fragrant oil drips down his face and neck.

His hair is glistening; his face is shining.


In the Bible, people are anointed at two important times…

They are anointed at death.

And they are anointed when they are called by God to be king.

Jesus is anointed for both.


As Barbara Brown Taylor says,

“This bottle will not be held back to be kept and admired.

This precious substance will not be saved.

It will be opened, offered and used, at great price.

It will be raised up and poured out for the life of the world,

emptied to the last drop. “[i]


The disciples don’t get it.

They say, “What a waste of money!”

That oil is worth one year’s wages!

It could have done so much more for the poor!”


Now who can argue with that?

Don’t we have those tensions too –

how to make the best use of money we’ve been given?


But Jesus says,

“Leave her alone….

She alone of all of you understands what I’ve been saying.

Yes, the poor have needs.

Take care of them every day – feed them, clothe them, shelter them.


“But this is Wednesday.

Something big is going to happen soon – very soon.

This woman has anointed me with oil.

She has prepared me for burial.

She knows.

What she has done will be told over and over again.”


And then Judas leaves the room.



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